Loyalty

When I was in high school I got into a lot of trouble. I was young, immature, and doing stupid stuff all the time. I was in detention a lot, mostly for being out of uniform because I wore combat boots with my plaid uniform skirt and I always wore black socks instead of navy blue or my shirt was pulled out just a little too far so it could be considered untucked. I didn’t really mind detention because it was a place to get all of my homework done in peace and quiet. The one detention I am proud of was for throwing another girl up against the lockers. Now I know this is probably not something most people would be proud of, but to me, then, and now, it still is.

I threw that girl up against the lockers because she walked up to my friend after religion class where my friend had just asked us to pray for her cat who had been run over by a car and whispered in her ear “I ran over your cat”. To this day, I do not remember that bully’s name or why she would say something like this to my friend, but in that moment my reaction to someone hurting my friend was to throw her into the lockers. I served my detention for fighting in school. Sometimes people just need to be shaken and told that it’s not okay to say mean things to other people. 

Years later I still have this kind of loyalty to my friends. Years later I am also still the one a lot of people look at twice because I wear Doc Martens with my jeans or my sleeveless band t-shirts to the gym. And most importantly, years later I still don’t care what other people think about me. I like me. If other people like me, that’s great, but if they don’t, I’m okay with that too. Just keep it to yourself. It’s really not my business if you like me or not.

Last week a friend of mine shared a post on facebook of a picture collage of a bunch of famous people who have had mental health issues and died. It was to break the stigma attached to mental health and was a positive post. Some woman who she didn’t even know but was a friend of a friend of a friend asked her if she had mental health issues in a comment on this post. I read it and asked myself “who does that?”

I know who does that. It’s the same people who call me weird because they don’t understand why a middle aged woman still loves punk rock and wears doc martens with her jeans. It’s the same people who think that their worth as a person is based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. It’s the same people who are not okay enough with themselves to just be themselves, flaws and all. My favorite parts of people are their scars and their imperfections because that is what makes them truly unique.

My dad has a scar on his forehead where he went through the windshield of his car when he crashed racing to be at his friend’s side after his father died. I loved hearing that story growing up, not because my dad was hurt but because he was going to be with his friend who needed him. That story taught me how being loyal to a friend in need is important. I was driving to the hospital to see a friend who needed me over the weekend when my phone rang and my friend who posted the facebook post asked if I knew who this woman was who commented. Apparently the bully and I went to high school together. It would be really funny if it was the same bully who picked on my friend years ago, but it wasn’t. It was just another mean girl who grew up to be a mean woman and bully people on the internet. In that moment I did the same thing I did as a teenager, but instead of throwing a girl into the lockers I commented back to her on facebook and asked her if she had Asperger’s Syndrome. If she does I can totally understand why she asked the question and she would have gotten a pass. That wasn’t very nice of me either, but sometimes people need to be shaken and told that it’s not okay to be mean on the internet and attack people publicly. My husband has commented that it’s possible that both my father and I have Asperger’s Syndrome because we don’t pick up on social cues and focus on what we are interested in very intensely. Personally, I think we are both just sarcastic assholes who are loyal to our friends. She never responded and she deleted her comment so mine went away with it.

I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom…

I would consider myself a kind person. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes before I open my mouth and I know that everybody has their own stuff that they are going through but that woman just really needed someone to put her in her place and I don’t mind being that person every now and then. Yes I was being childish too, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I had just been in a situation the day before where some people were passing judgement on me for dressing like an angsty teenager when they don’t know me as a person at all. I am still sometimes an angsty teenager and that is what makes me unique.

I thought my days of detention were over years ago, but alas they are not. My husband put me in detention after I told him this story. I guess sometimes when you act like a teenager so much you better accept being treated like one sometimes. Hey at least I got some writing done in my detention!

**I wrote this story while drinking lots of coffee and listening to The Interrupters “Fight the Good Fight”

 

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Full Circle

Turning into my dad is scary enough, but I have also married a man just like my dad. I don’t even want to think about the psychology behind that one.
Years ago we used to make fun of my dad after my mom came home one day to find him painting one of the bedrooms in the house completely naked. He was home alone and didn’t want to ruin another shirt with the little paint splatters that accompany a paint roller. It has been a running joke to never show up at my parents’ house if my dad is painting. My mom has told everyone she knows about the day she came home and found her husband painting naked, so even her friends would joke about stopping by unannounced. They would say things like “I’m dropping off some paperwork in your front door. Pat’s not painting is he?” The poor Old Man has been the naked painter for much of his adult life. Luckily, nothing embarrasses him.

I don’t know if this is something other people do because I am never the one who paints the bedrooms or the furniture or anything else. When the paint comes out I typically head in the other direction. I have had to clean up my daughter after she helped grandpa paint and I can see where the naked painting thing could be the way to go. My husband does the painting in our house, and I think that’s the way it will probably always be. He has been a painting madman over the last week and I have hidden in another part of the house and remained busy so he could not ask for my help.

We participate in an annual trunk or treat event at my daughter’s school. Our themes have ranged from KISS to My Little Pony. Our daughter picks her costume every year and we go with that theme. It’s a lot of work, but we get to create something as a family and our daughter is always so proud of what we put together. This year was a Harry Potter theme. My husband constructed an entrance for the back of the car from wood and fabric to look like the wall for platform 9 3/4. The kids enter through the tunnel to get their candy. He built and painted all week. A few nights ago after I got our daughter tucked in I walked down into the basement where he was painting the fabric pieces that make up the walls of the set. He looked up at me from the floor where he was squatting over the fabric spong painted brick wall wearing nothing but a smile and declared “I totally get it now!” He went on to explain how he had to hang the pieces to dry from the ceiling and didn’t want anything to touch his clothing which was balled up on the floor.

I guess the naked painter torch can now be passed to my husband. If anyone needs to drop anything in our front door during the fall or any other time we may be working on a project, it may be best to call ahead, or don’t go peeking in the window if nobody answers the door. I would like to say this is strictly because of the naked painter thing, but truly I also vacuum in my underwear so it may just be a family thing. Again, I married a man just like my dad and I have turned into him as well.

Our trunk or treat car was a success, mostly because my daughter has a dad and a grandpa that will do anything for her. The guys got the car set up at the school. They assembled the structure and hung the fabric while I got the props set up and the pumpkin juice and candy ready for the littles. I scared some kids as Bellatrix and John was mistaken for a mad scientist by more than one kid who wasn’t familiar with Harry Potter, but we had a lot of little wizards and witches who loved the theme and most of the parents had at least seen the movies if they hadn’t read the books. And my entire family was able to keep their clothes on for the entire event. Miracles will never cease!

**This post is brought to you by lots and lots of punk rock and mass amounts of coffee. They are the two things that keep me going on a daily basis.

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One Track Heart

I love my father, but man is that Old Man stubborn. In his mind he is a young man and his body should be able to do what he wants it to do. But he is getting older and he really shouldn’t be doing a lot of the things he wants to keep doing by himself. He owns two homes and maintains two properties, cutting the grass every week at his house and at the lake house, bagging leaves at two houses in the fall, and caring for all of the other little things that come up. His motto is don’t pay someone else to do something you can do yourself. The problem is, he thinks he can do everything. A few weeks ago we took the boat out of the water and his brother helped, which was great. The problem is when you get these two brothers together, somehow the process of everything we are doing becomes twice as long. It’s like the two of them together creates a space time contingency where everything slows down.

We would normally have taken the dock apart and gotten the boat lift out of the water on the same day, but my mother-in-law was in town and we didn’t want to keep her waiting. Ironically, as soon as my husband and I walked into the house our daughter was mad that we returned so early because she wanted to play with Grandma alone. The weather was warm and it was a great day to be outside, so they spent the day playing in the yard.

The following weekend was not so nice. It was cold and windy, so naturally that was the best time to get the dock out of the water. My dad has three sets of waders just for this job. Two pair are more rubber and less fitted and one is like a scuba suit. I immediately grabbed the scuba suit and headed for the water. I’m no fool. My husband and dad were left with the rubber pants. I had worn these same rubber pants in the spring when we put the dock in the water, so I knew they were great for keeping you dry, but not very good at keeping you warm. Since my husband had only ever worn the scuba suit, he walked out barefoot in his bathing suit only to find the rubber booted waders waiting for him. Instead of putting his jeans and shoes back on, he threw the waders on and headed for the water where my dad was already trying to dismantle the dock by himself since he’s clearly a young, strong man who needs no help. 

We spent the next three hours hauling the dock and boat lift out of the water, where anything that could have gone wrong did. My husband was freezing and forming blisters on his feet, my scuba suit feet were flopping around in the water in front of me as I walked because the suit was made for someone at least a foot taller than me, and my dad was bleeding on his forearms after having the dock scrape him. At some point we also disrupted a bee hive between the rocks on the beach so we were being attacked by angry bees as we carried the dock out of the water. My mom was running around trying to bandage up my dad, kill the bees before we walked in with another piece of dock, and make sure that my dad was not over exerting himself. At one point she was even trying to help us pull the boat lift out of the water with the lawn mower, but she was nervous about giving it too much gas and knocking one of us down or pulling the lift into the wave runner lifts which were also lying on the beach. Putting a nervous older woman behind the wheel of anything is never a great idea. It’s an even worse idea when you have three idiots in rubber pants standing behind her yelling.

By the end of the day both my mom and my husband were looking up companies who could come out to take care of all of this work next year. Between the two of them I’ll be surprised if my dad doesn’t wake up one morning in the spring to find his dock and the lifts in the water, having been put there by people who actually know how to do this stuff.

It was a good thing that my mom was occupied on the third weekend we went out to finish up our lake winterization project. She probably would have had a heart attack watching my dad climb around on the boat lift like a monkey removing the canopy. My husband did his best to stay ahead of the old man with the ladders and tools, but peter pan moves pretty quickly and was standing on top of a ladder pulling at bungy chords and pushing the canopy off the side of the frame in no time. I was beginning to see why my mom is on high blood pressure medicine after that day.

My husband added up all the hours that we spent and decided that it was well worth the cost to pay someone else to do this next year. He told me all about it but I wasn’t really listening because I had been preoccupied for the last week and a half trying to get the videos on my phone onto my computer. I’m not great with technology, so things like this take me hours upon hours to resolve. When I was finally frustrated enough to throw my phone out the window, I asked my husband for help with tears in my eyes. He said “no problem Pat Jr. You realize I fix these types of problems at work for people all week right?” Oh crap. Just when I thought my biggest fear was turning into my mother, it’s not. It’s turning into my father and I already have.

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The Collectors

There is a house at the end of our street that is slowly decorating the outside with it’s insides. There are rocking chairs on the front porch and chairs with cushions on the back deck. Last year I noticed several new planter boxes and a bench in their front yard. A few months ago a painting appeared on their front porch. I am waiting for a couch to appear on their deck. I have to wonder what the inside of their house looks like if they have run out of wall space for paintings. The funniest part about this painting is that it is of an outdoor scene. So whoever hung it apparently thought that the actual flowers and trees in their yard were not nearly enough nature and a painting of nature was necessary to create the proper outdoor vibe.

I know a hoarder when I see one. I come from a family of hoarders. My grandparents had geese on their front porch that my grandma dressed in outfits according to the season. Have you ever seen a goose in a sweater? If so, you may have lived next door to my grandparents at some point. When my grandpa retired he spent a lot of time finding new projects to make. He made bird houses out of license plates and garden figures out of wood. As they made their way to my parents’ house I watched my dad turn them into garbage by accidentally running into them with the lawnmower or dropping them onto rocks. My dad’s fingers were never as buttery as when he was attempting to hang one of my grandpa’s new creations. It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like these decorations, there was just too much stuff in the yard already.

My mom decorated the backyard with some interesting pieces. For years an old fashioned sewing machine table stood next to the fence. It was surrounded by river rocks and bushes. The entire perimeter of their backyard consisted of bushes and plants, but in any open space my mom found, some form of a decoration appeared. There were fishing nets and sea shells, terracotta angels and birdhouses. I could understand the nautical decor since they had a pool, but what a sewing machine stand had to do with a relaxing backyard was beyond me. Maybe she had a lot of Quaker friends who would appreciate it, but I didn’t get the concept at all. This item was replaced by an old fashioned pipe radiator at some point which makes a little more sense to me because maybe people need to heat up a little after they get out of the pool. It would make even more sense if my parents’ pool wasn’t heated to a very comfortable bath water degree most of the season.

I think my husband sees the pattern and has that fear that all women eventually turn into their mothers because he secretly throws out things when I am not paying attention. He used to sneak things into the monthly bags of donations on the front porch before he left for work in the morning hoping I wouldn’t go retrieve them before I left the house a few hours later. This came to an end when I quit leaving the house in the morning. I don’t know how he smuggles the stuff out now, but I looked around our garage last week for an hour trying to find my flag that goes up during football season with no luck, so he’s getting it out of here somehow.

I can see where his fear comes from though. While decorating for fall I found that I had not one but four fall themed wreathes in the basement. We have one front door so I’m not sure what will become of the other three. I guess I could always walk them down the street and see if the neighbors need one. Maybe I will drop it off on my way out to buy a new Spartans flag.

I wrote this post while listening to the new Interrupters album

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Kindness Wins Again

My daughter is a very kind child. It’s one of her greatest attributes and I hope she is always able to reach into that place in herself and remain kind as she grows up and learns that others in the world are not often like her. She displayed some of this kindness while we were on a family vacation this weekend, and as always I was impressed with her ability to be compassionate at such a young age.

We go to a Great Wolf Lodge a few times a year for little weekend getaways. It’s a hotel with a water park and other fun stuff for kids to do. My parents love spending time with Riley and they decided since we hadn’t gotten away for a little while as a family, we should all go. So the five of us jumped in the car and took a little three hour trip up north. I have to say, my parents are great sports when it comes to doing things for their grandchild. We stayed in a suite that had a little log cabin in one room with bunk beds. My husband and I slept in there with our daughter the first night and it was like sleeping on a medieval torture device. When she declared she wanted her grandparents to sleep in there the second night they gladly agreed. They had seen the beds and my husband and myself after a night in the beds, but they slept there anyway. They also dragged their elderly butts up 57 steps to the top of a three person raft water slide repeatedly over the course of the weekend just to be able to bounce around and hear their grandchild laugh firsthand. I know it was 57 steps because my mother counted them on her first trip up.

One of the other activities that my daughter likes to do at the hotel is called Magic Quest. It’s basically a bunch of scavenger hunts in the hotel to earn badges. If you complete all of the quests you are named a master magi, a title which is highly revered by seven year olds. My daughter spent many hours in between playing in the water park, pumping half of my dad’s paycheck into arcade games and stuffing all form of sugar in her mouth running around the hotel gathering runes to complete her quests. Her favorite person to do this with was of course her grandpa. We all got to play at some point, but by the end of the trip she was grabbing his hand and sneaking out the door to go adventuring with her favorite playmate.

On our day of departure she had one more quest to complete to become a quest master. She and her grandpa were working diligently to complete the job before we had to leave. With only about fifteen minutes to go they ran across a little boy who was struggling to complete the quest he was working on. They stopped to help and my dad explained to her that if she helped the little boy she would not have time to finish her own quest and become a master. She thought about it for a few moments and said “that’s okay, he needs help. I want to help him.” So she did. She abandoned her own journey to help him finish his quest with no complaints. I came in after loading the car and started to round up the troops when my dad shared this story with me. He said “You created a good one there.” I would have to agree.

We all gathered together and helped our little magi who had to go back to the beginning of her quest and start over because there was a time limit. She ran around the hotel and with a little help from her dad and myself, she was able to find all of the runes and become a master magi. It’s funny the things you learn from your kids. Earlier in the trip my daughter had stopped to pick up a pair of wolf ears that a little girl dropped on the floor. She handed them back to the little girl who was in a panic because at first she thought that my daughter was picking up the ears for herself. The girl turned to her mother and said “Mama, that little girl just gave me back my ears. She picked them up for me!” She was surprised by my daughter’s kindness. I watched lots of other kids pushing and shoving their way through lines, knocking down smaller kids over the weekend. I even watched a dad leave his kid behind on the steps to make it to the front of the line for a raft. I am grateful that my daughter isn’t making her way through life like that. I’m proud of her for stopping to pick up the ears for another kid, and for abandoning her mission to help someone else because it was the right thing to do. We did create a pretty good little human being. I am so grateful that I get to learn from her every day.

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